Colleen Yamaguchi

Coaching Corner - March 2016

What’s the best way to approach an executive about being your mentor (assuming they know you and are aware of your work)?

"First of all, kudos for thinking about approaching someone to be your mentor.  As I suspect you know, great mentors can have a tremendous impact on one's career and growth. And how wise you are to be thoughtful in your approach!

I believe the main things to think about are knowing what you want from this mentor -- and why --  and then doing your homework to know what is important to the mentor that would make it worthwhile for she/he to mentor you.  This is especially true if you are looking for a formal mentoring relationship.  Taking an informal approach that could evolve into something more formal over time may be another way to go -- for example, starting with coffee or emails asking for advice, following up with the executive on the advice, and keeping him/her apprised on developments can slowly build THE relationship and result in A MORE formal mentorship.  Cultivating a mentor relationship can be like other new relationships involving compatibility and mutual interests.

Consider how you can engage with this person in a way that creates good positive energy and makes a good memorable impression, regardless of the whether or not they agree to be your mentor.  You can only do your best in making your request, and but you cannot control the other person's response (and he/she may have a good reason for declining that has nothing to do with you).  If you distinguish yourself in a good way and have an engaging interaction, you will leave a good impression that may stick with them.

In my own career, I've had mentors who helped me hone my legal skills, helped in my professional development (making sure I was getting the right amount of responsibility, experience and visibility), and sponsored me in my promotion to law firm partner.  I worked closely with those mentors and they continued to help with career advice even when I changed law firms and ultimately transitioned my career to leadership development. I also formally and informally asked others to mentor me in my new career, keeping them apprised of my career development and work I've been doing, sharing perspectives and looking for opportunities to work together and/or refer work to each other.

Without knowing more about your situation, my instinct as a coach is to answer your questions with questions that may help you come up with your own thoughts on how to proceed:

  1. What, specifically, do you want in terms of mentoring from this person, and Why?  
  2. What are you hoping will be different for you and for them as a result of this mentoring relationship?
  3. How well do you know this person (or how well does this person know you)? 
  4. Do you have a working relationship with this mentor? If so, are you strong performer?
  5. What would this person get out of mentoring you?  Are you an up and comer?  Are there ways you can help this mentor?  Does this person like to mentor people? What do you know about what the mentor cares about? 
  6. If this person is a strong mentor, the likelihood is she/he finds it gratifying, but also that they may be already mentoring others.  So how can you be respectful of their time?
  7. Think about what you can contribute to the mentoring relationship.  What can you share from your vantage point?

Walking yourself through Vanna's Fast Five Steps can be beneficial.  How can you pull them in -- getting their attention and distinguishing yourself in a good way?  What is the pain or challenge you are dealing with?  How can being mentored by this person help?  What can you contribute to the mentoring relationship (think KOM or their WIIFM)?  What would a successful mentorship relationship look like and how might it work (keeping mind they might have their own ideas about this)? 

Good luck!"

- Colleen Yamaguchi & Vanna Novak

Marci's Column - November 2015

Above : 2015 Navigation graduate,  Christine Sakamoto  (middle) presents flowers on behalf of her class to Navigation Program Director,  Colleen Yamaguchi  (left) and EDI's Executive Director,  Marci Nakano  (right).

Above: 2015 Navigation graduate, Christine Sakamoto (middle) presents flowers on behalf of her class to Navigation Program Director, Colleen Yamaguchi (left) and EDI's Executive Director, Marci Nakano (right).

Our 2015 programs came to an end this month with our graduation celebrations in Puget Sound and Portland.  We are so proud of the 2015 graduates and are excited to see what lies ahead for them.  We wish them the best as they continue on their leadership journeys and will look forward to showcasing them in our “Alumni on the Move”.  Congratulations, Class of 2015! 

Thank you to everyone in the EDI community for your support of the 2015 program and participants.  Special thanks to our 2015 program chairs, facilitators, executive mentors, executive coaches and sponsors.  We couldn’t have done it without you. 

Now we focus on 2016!  Our goal is 83 participants and we need everyone’s help to reach this goal.  Our initial application deadline is November 30th, but we will keep the application process open until all classes are filled.  All applicants must be enrolled prior to the kick-off sessions in March.  Remind your friends, colleagues and others in your network to get their applications in soon.  If you have interested candidates that would like to learn more about our 2016 programs, please contact the EDI staff at  We’re happy to do informational sessions or meet with individuals one on one.  

Marci's Column - September 2015

We are now entering our busiest time at EDI with the 2015 classes coming to a close, Inclusion Fusion just around the corner, graduation celebrations in November and 2016 recruitment!  It’s an exciting time and we look forward to all of you being a part of it.

Last month, we held our 3rd Annual Hispanic Alumni reunion.  From the photos, you can see that it was a fun time reconnecting with alumni and meeting new faces, too. Special thanks to former State Representative Phyllis Kenney for delivering an inspiring message to our guests and our very own George Alabi (Discovery Class of 2004 & Navigation Class of 2014), for being our MC.

Our annual fundraiser, Inclusion Fusion, is only a week away!!  It’s definitely an event you don’t want to miss.  We have lots of new auction items and activities that we can’t wait to share with you.  From our “secret ingredient” for our chef appetizers, mystery room, wine toss, heads or tails, pot of gold and live auction card draw, it promises to be a fun night.  It’s not too late to register, so click here to join the festivities.

The past few weeks we’ve been actively recruiting for our 2016 programs.  We ask for your help in referring candidates to our program so we can make 2016 our biggest class to date.  Please contact us at if you have anyone that is interested in enrolling in the program. 

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to our Executive Director Emeritus, Alan Sugiyama.  Hopefully you all read his update in our last newsletter and will join in on the appreciation event being held in his honor this Sunday.  Al has been very supportive and continues to assist EDI in any way that he can.  Thank you, Al and we look forward to celebrating with you on Sunday. 

Featured: Program Chairs

Left to Right:  Andrea Cortes-Beltran, Vanna Novak (EDI Founder/Facilitator), Mark Kawabata, Melanie Tinsley, Ronald Woo, Claire Mak, and Nicole Ngonevolalath, pose for a picture after their "Train the Trainer" session in preparation for their respective programs.                              Not pictured:  Pha Mom, Jose Gomez, Ryan Truair, Cesar Amaral, and Colleen Yamaguchi.

Left to Right: Andrea Cortes-Beltran, Vanna Novak (EDI Founder/Facilitator), Mark Kawabata, Melanie Tinsley, Ronald Woo, Claire Mak, and Nicole Ngonevolalath, pose for a picture after their "Train the Trainer" session in preparation for their respective programs.                           

Not pictured: Pha Mom, Jose Gomez, Ryan Truair, Cesar Amaral, and Colleen Yamaguchi.

For EDI, the people who make running the programs possible, are the Program Chairs, past and presentThey are truly EDI's Champions! EDI's Program Chairs are past alumni, who volunteer their time back (for up to two years) to EDI simply because they love the programs so much.


     One of the returning Program Chairs, Mark Kawabata, says, "The best part about EDI is the energy and excitement that flows through the participants. There are many classes that address leadership in business, but to be a part of a program tailored to incorporate personal cultural values elevates it to a higher level." An added benefit for Mark is also working closely with EDI's Executive Director, Marci Nakano, to make sure the programs are running smoothly.

Q & A with the 2015 Program Chairs:

"Why did you become a Program Chair?"


Pha Mom:  I enjoy watching people grow throughout the year and it's great to know that I took part in that growth.


Nicole Ngonevolalath:  I want to work on my skill set and go through the program again as a refresher because if we don't use it, we lose it.


Ryan Truair: There was a need for someone to step into a leadership role, and I took it as an opportunity to apply and exercise what I learned as a program participant.


Claire Mak:  I want to give back to the EDI community, promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and help other Asians become better leaders. I also enjoy meeting new people, and there's no better way to network with other Asian professionals than being part of EDI.

"What do you enjoy most about being a Program Chair?"


Pha Mom:  I love meeting new people and learning their story!


Nicole Ngonevolalath:  Meeting and learning about the new participants, but also having the chance to get to know the trainers on a different level! And of course, the FOOD!


Claire Mak: I love sharing my experiences and lessons that I learned with the EDI class. Mentoring other Asian professionals makes me feel proud :)


Colleen Yamaguchi:  It's a fabulous opportunity to create an environment where people can learn, share and grow together, and to see that come alive.  In all the programs, each participant has a wealth of experience and perspective to contribute, so the peer dynamic is rich and a critical component of learning. Tapping into the wisdom of the group as new concepts and tools are introduced generates an upward synergy of insights and leader development that is exciting to see. I learn a lot too!

Advice for someone thinking about becoming a Program Chair:


Pha Mom:  If you want to grow, give back. Giving back is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others.


Nicole Ngonevolalath:   DO IT! It's an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and embrace the challenge.


Ryan Truair:  Go for it. You will not regret your decision.


Claire Mak:  There's nothing better than giving back to your community, learning new skills, re-living the EDI experience with new friends, and helping improve the EDI program!